Skip to main content

William W. Wells Papers

Identifier: mss-022

Scope and Content Note

The collection consists largely of correspondences in two categories, civilian and military. The former has been divided into two groupings: correspondence between Wm. Wells and his wife, and general correspondence which includes family letters and much concerning Well's attempt to become Collector of Customs for Vermont. Notable correspondents are J.H. Wilson and G.E. Edmunds. The military papers include all official military correspondence and materials from the Civil War period. Of notable interest are some letters and messages from Gen. G.A. Custer. Correspondence had been kept in strict chronological order within these categories.

In addition to correspondence - civilian and military - are a few photographs, essays by Wm. Wells, ephemera, and a thesis by E.W. Hoffman on Well's role in the war.

The collection consists of a carton and a box (labelled boxes one and two) and generally covers the years 1861 to 1884. The collection was donated by Bertha Jackson Kolk on Sept. 21, 1973.


  • 1856-1884



Collection is open for research.

Publication Rights

All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Curator of Manuscripts.

Biographical Note

Gen. William Wells was born in Waterbury, Vermont, on December 14, 1837. After attending the Barre Academy and Kimball Union Academy (Meriden, N.H.), Wells worked in his father's wholesale flour and grain business. When the first Vermont Cavalry was raised in 1861, Wells enlisted as private but quickly rose to captain's rank. By October, 1862, Wells had risen to rank of major. As such, he distinguished himself at Orange Court House, Virginia (Aug. 2, 1862), and commanded a cavalry battalion in the repulse of Stuarts' cavalry at Hannover, PA, (June 30, 1863), a decisive victory that, in preventing Stuart from joining Lee, deprived the latter of his cavalry for the first two days of the battle at Gettysburg. For his service at Gettysburg, Major Wells received a Congressional Medal of Honor. In Sept. 1863, Wells was wounded in the battle at Culpepper Court House, Va. In March 1864, Wells assumed for a month the command of the Seventh Michigan Cavalry. Then on May 11, he was in charge of a battalion at the battle at Yellow Tavern, Va., where the Confederate General Stuart was killed. Promoted on June 4, 1864, Colonel Wells took part in Sheridan's Shenandoah campaign, commanding a brigade of Carter's division. Having been further promoted to Brevet Brigadier-General on Feb. 22, 1865, Wells became ranking officer of the cavalry corps of the Army of the Potomac after the departure of Sheridan and Custer to Texas. Gen. Wells was in command at Fairfax County Court House after Lee's surrender. In Jan. 1866, Wells was mustered out of the service.

Upon his return from war, Wells became a partner in the firm of Henry and Company, wholesale druggists in Waterbury, VT. In 1868, the company moved to Burlington, where it became Wells, Richardson, and Company in 1872, and where Wells made his home. An active businessman, Wells achieved such influential positions as President of the Burlington Trust Co., President of the Burlington Board of Trade, and directorships of the Burlington Cold Storage Co., and the Rutland Railroad Co., and the Champlain Transport Co.

Wells remained politically active through this post-war period, having joined the State Legislature in 1865 as Representative of Waterbury. Elected as Adjutant and Inspector General in 1865, Wells gave up this position to become Collector of Customs for the District of Vermont in 1872, an office he struggled for years to obtain. Retiring from this in Sept. 1885, Wells was the following year elected State Senator from Chittenden County, a position he held until his death on April 29, 1892. William Wells married Arahana Richardson on January 6, 1866. They had two children - Frank R. and Bertha R.


0.4 Linear feet (2 boxes)

Language of Materials



William Wells was an Army officer during the U.S. Civil War and Adjutant General of Vermont. Collection includes correspondence, diary and military papers including rosters of Vermont Cavalry, ordnance reports, orders, and clothing and equipment returns.

Physical Location

Library Research Annex; contact for access.

Separated Materials

Three copies of Vermont State Legislature Directory: 1866

Legal pamphlet - Capt. John Lonegan, Co. K, 2nd Regiment, vs. the State of Vermont

Guide to the William W. Wells Papers
Finding aid prepared by Allen Jelich
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the University of Vermont Libraries, Special Collections Repository

Silver Special Collections Library
48 University Place, Room B201
Burlington Vermont 05405 U.S.A. US
(802) 656-2138
(802) 656-4038 (Fax)